B. QUALITIES OF LEADERSHIP
Qualification may not mean quality
We can see some of the qualities that should be a part of church leadership
by taking a few moments to look at Epaphras. He appears very few times
in the Scripture, yet there are many qualities that can be seen in these
references. (Col. 1:3-8; 4:12,13; Philemon 23. Another reference that might
give meaning to Epaphras is Acts 20:28.)
I would like to give a short introduction to this study to set the stage
for the thoughts we need to have. Let's say that you want to buy a car.
Let's say that you have enough money to buy any car that you want. Let's
say that you are setting out to buy that car of your dreams. Let's say
you are standing before the car salesman and you are about to tell him
just what you want him to order. Let's do that for a moment and let ourselves
be worldly for a moment. Yes, I'm telling you to be worldly for a moment.
ONLY A MOMENT!
What kind of car is it? What color is it? The salesman has a list of
all the possible options -- what are you going have him put on the car?
What radio will you have? On one of the news magazines they showed cars
with stereos in them that cost more than the car. What engine will you
get? What color will you order?
Now that the dreaming is over let's think for a moment. If you had the
money, if you had the desire, if you were committed to having this car,
would you accept delivery of a Maroon Chevette? NO!
If you were to set down a list of qualifications and desires for your
church leadership, would you settle for something less than you ordered?
You say no, but I believe that many churches today are accepting a standard
that is much lower than they desire!! Either they are accepting less than
they want, or else their desires are far from Biblical.
The Word gives a great number of QUALIFICATIONS for church leadership
and we all hear of these from time to time taught from Timothy and Titus,
however the word also sets forth some Godly men as examples of some of
the QUALITIES that these men should have.
In this study I would like to explore some of these QUALITIES OF LEADERSHIP
with you. I would like to look for a few moments at Epaphras. NO IT IS
NOT A SKIN RASH!
Epaphras was a man of God that the Holy Spirit moved Paul to include
in the Biblical record only so very briefly. He is mentioned only three
times - only five verses deal with Epaphras yet we can see within these
few verses a real man of God.
INDEED, WE WILL SEE A NUMBER OF LEADERSHIP QUALITIES
Colossians is a book written by Paul during a stay in Rome under Roman
guard. It was written about the same time as Philemon, Ephesians, and Philippians.
We want to look at the first few verses.
In the passage we see that Epaphras was a soul winner (vs. 5). The indications
are that he had given these people the Gospel. He may have started the
Church. Some think that he may have heard Paul when Paul was at Ephesus
in Acts 19:10.
Not only was he a soul winner, but he was a teacher or discipler (vs.
5-7). We see here a pair of qualities which need to be used as a path to
maturity for new believers.
Many of the evangelistic organizations today suffer in this area. They
lead the person to Christ but never bother to teach them anything of the
Christian life nor do they bother to lead or direct them to a sound church.
In my own life, the man that led me to the Lord did not attempt to disciple
me and as a result, I went into the Navy and became a typical sailor. I
often have wondered how my life might have been different had I been taught
some of the basics of the faith.
We see that he was also a faithful Minister (vs 7). One who held the
body of believers as important - always there to help - to minister to
needs - not far off or unapproachable.
He was a servant (vs. 7). This man was a servant of Christ. "A servant
of Jesus Christ is one who has been bought with a price and is therefore
owned by his Master, on whom he is completely dependent, to whom he owes
undivided allegiance and to whom he ministers with gladness of heart, in
newness of spirit, and in the enjoyment of perfect freedom, receiving from
him a glorious reward." (William Hendriksen, "EXPOSITION OF COLOSSIANS
AND PHILEMON"; Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1964, P 191)
This man was a servant of Christ "ON OUR BEHALF" Some translations read
"your" but the concept is the same. He served Christ to THEIR benefit.
He wasn't in it for what he could get or be. We met a man in Oregon that
was planting a church. He was making his living pumping gas. He worked
at the gas station and worked with the church for eight years. The church
was his life and all that he did was to further the church. He was in it
so that he could benefit those he ministered to. In this case Epaphras
was ministering to Paul in prison so he was benefiting Paul.
We have four qualities so far (soul winner,teacher/discipler, faithful
minister and servant). You might ask, "what is the difference between qualifications
and qualities?" Qualification has the idea that the person has the abilities
that make him appropriate for the job at hand. Qualified is the idea, while
quality has the idea of the type of person that is in view. What he is
like with people, how he relates to problems, or the nature of the person.
Good qualifications relate to the ability to come to a standard, but qualities
relate to the quality of person that is under consideration. Let me give
you a couple of examples. We had a maroon Chevette once. It had the qualifications
to be a car but its quality was questionable. It had four wheels, a motor,
a body, seats etc. but the dealer had it more in the first 90 days that
we did. There is you see a difference. It qualified as a car, yet it was
not a quality car. (To be fair to the Chevrolet Co., We put 180,000 miles
on our Chevette before it was totalled by a big Caddy that suffered NO
Let me illustrate the distinction that I am making in another way. While
in the service I was the only experienced electronic technician on the
ship. Indeed the only tech. One day we received fourteen men just out of
electronics school. Our ship was only allowed five or six men, so I decided
that I would have it made with this many men under me. Not so! These men
were qualified as technicians -- they had passed all the tests at school
indeed some of them had very high grades in their classes. However, the
quality of workmanship was very poor --- in fact within a month the ship
was a total mess electronically. We went into the repair yards for a few
weeks and it took me every spare moment to get all of the problems cleared
up. QUALIFIED? YES - QUALITY? NO, NOT FOR MANY MONTHS!
Epaphras seems to have been boastful of his church (vs. 8 "also declared
unto us your love in the Spirit"). He had been speaking to Paul of his
church and its GOOD POINTS! We were in a small church in central Oregon
a few years ago that we have spoken to many of our friends about. It was
a church that had an over abundance of talented, excited, dedicated people.
I could mention the fact they met in an upstairs, that it was to small,
or the fact they didn't have a piano but I didn't. I always tried to emphasize
the positive, for it was a very uplifting experience to have been in the
church. The positive was what was on Epaphras' mind. Indeed, if you read
the rest of the book you will find that the church had problems which Paul
addressed. Epaphras was excited about his church. He was telling others
of his church.
Our church people today need to get hold of this one! Dwell on the positive.
Do you tell others of your church? Are you making declarations about the
great people there, or do you dwell on the problems?
Let's turn now for a moment to Col. 4:12-13. We see that Epaphras was
a local boy ("one of your number"). Why haven't we taken this idea to heart
in our Churches today? When we need someone to work with the youth we so
often look outside our own assembly. A Church in the midwest took one of
their own as their youth man. Why not? They are used to the pastor, they
fit right into the fellowship, and the kids know them already. They are
already accepted in the community. You know their life, their doctrine,
as well as their faults!
The New Testament Church operated for the most part on people from their
own group. All Church leaders came from within, not from without. Not only
for youth workers but why not for pastors or elders as your Church government
dictates? Train the men of your Church so that when the pastor moves on
you have a home grown replacement on line. Send him to college if you need
to. Some would complain that when he is trained he might go someplace else
- so what you've trained a man to serve God. Train another! You don't need
to finance him totally, but help as you can.
One Church in Oregon that we've been to has laymen that are so trained
by their pastor they can, and do go out to fill the pulpits of Churches
without pastors. Their pastor is committed to training his people to do
the work of the Lord as Ephesians 4 tells us to do!
Epaphras was committed to Christ (Bondslave - "servant of Christ").
He had placed himself at his Lord's disposal for his Lords use. When I
think of servants of God that were sold out I always think of Stephen in
Acts 6:24. He was a deacon, but he soon preached to the Jews and finally
died at their hands in Chapter Seven. He was sold out to serve Christ.
Paul seems quite impressed with this man. Phil. 23 "Epaphras my fellow
prisoner in Christ Jesus"; Col. 1:7 "minister of Christ," "dear fellow
servant"; Col. 4:12 "Servant of Christ."
I fear that commitment is a passing thing in our society and in our
Churches. I have in recent months heard of several men turning down Churches
because of financial deficiencies in the Churches pay package. Finances
should be involved in deciding if God is calling you to a Church, but it
should not be the deciding factor. Someone in chapel while I was at Frontier
School of the Bible mentioned a man that was leaving his Church because
he wasn't making enough. His salary was $48,000 a year.
Epaphras was thoughtful. He knew that Paul was writing to them so he
ask him to greet them for him. This shows a certain amount of feeling toward
the people. Epaphras must have liked the people and felt that he wanted
to greet them. God is interested in men that are interested in their people
- TRULY INTERESTED!!
He was a prayerful man. Paul didn't need to mention this in his letter,
but he was impressed enough with Epaphras' prayers, to encourage the people
on with the fact that someone was praying for them. One of the encouragements
we've had over the years is knowing that so many are praying for us! We
used to send out more than 200 letters to enlist the prayers of the saints
when we were missionaries - we needed it!
Paul, to the best of my knowledge mentions no one else as a prayer.
He was impressed! By the way can you imagine going to prayer in a prayer
meeting with this man and Paul present?
Let's look at his prayer life for just a moment or two.
CONSISTENT: "always" - specific choice to do it on a regular basis.
Luke 18:1 "Men ought always to pray and not to faint"!
SPECIFIC: "for you." I ran across something in a Theological Journal
awhile back. "A story is told about an old pastor who every Saturday afternoon
could be seen leaving his study and entering the Church building by the
back door, and about sundown he would be seen going home. Someone's curiosity
was aroused enough to follow one day and watch through a window. It was
in the days when the family pew was an institution of the Church. The old
pastor was seen to kneel at each pew and pray for every member of the family
that was to occupy it on the Lord's day. WHAT A PRAYER LIST! He called
each member by name as he poured out his heart to God for his flock. His
was a ministry of power and his people reflected the grace of God on them.
Blessed is that Church which has such a praying Shepherd." (from Bibliotheca
Sacra; P 60; Jan-Mar 1979, Dallas Seminary) We need people committed to
pray for the people they minister to!
I ran across a quote from Charles Haddon Spurgeon that relates well
at this point. "The minister who does not earnestly pray over his work
must surely be a vain and conceited man. he acts as if he thought himself
sufficient of himself and therefore need not appeal to God. Yet what a
baseless pride to conceive that our preaching can ever be in itself so
powerful that it can turn men from their sins and bring them to God without
the working of the Holy Ghost."
I was at a Church in the northwest where the pastor was preaching on
commitment and in his invitation he mentioned that he had prayed for each
one in his congregation before the service.
I had spoken in a small town Church in the midwest and the pastor insisted
on filling my gas tank. He filled the tank and we talked for awhile at
the station. We said goodbye and he started walking toward his house. I
told him I'd take him home. He said, "No, I'd rather walk." I insisted
- he said, "No I'd rather walk - I know the people along the way home and
I like to pray for them as I walk by their house. Some of them are lost
and I want to pray for them."
That is the type of men we need in our pulpits today!
SINCERE: "striving" This word comes from the athletic arena - it is
used of the athletes intense effort in reaching for the prize. It is used
of the "agony" of Christ's prayer in Gethsemane (Luke 22:44) just before
I watched the iron man triathilon a few years ago and they showed a
woman that was near the finish line. She couldn't control her legs and
couldn't walk so she ended up on her hands and knees crawling across the
finish line - that is agony! This term "strive" is the term from which
we gain our English word "agonize." It was more than just a five minute
quite time. He was agonizing over these people!
PURPOSEFUL: "that ye may stand" It has been said, that if the Church
is ever going to be victorious it will have to learn to advance on it's
knees. PRAYER IS NEEDED TODAY TO SAY THE LEAST!
We see that Epaphras had a concern. He was very concerned with their
need of maturing.
He was sincere. Paul knew that this man was on the level -- he wasn't
just putting on a front to impress the folks. Some Christians I meet today
- Church leaders - are so caught up in their airs they don't listen to
the answers you give to their questions. This is quite evident when you
answer the same questions twice in your first conversation. I recently
overheard a conversation between a leader and a not so regular attender.
The leader would ask a question and in the middle of the answer the leader
would be interrupted and then when he returned to listening to the man
he would ask another question. The man had not finished his first answer.
This went on for about four cycles and finally the man walked away. The
leader was not at all interested in the man - only in pretending to be
We had a missionary over for dinner. He would ask a question and as
you paused between sentences of your answer he would ask another question
on another topic. A couple of times I went back and finished an answer
then answered the next question in the hope of his picking up on what he
was doing. He didn't.
Some today feel a lull in the conversation is a mortal sin. Personally
quiet is not all that bad at times indeed sometimes it is appropriate.
I recently heard of "Leather Man" in the eastern part of our country.
He was a man of the past. He was a man that never talked to anyone. He
wore a heavy leather outfit and would not take help from anyone. He would
eat from time to time when people offered. He had no known past and lived
in caves in the wilderness. He never was known to speak yet people, both
children and adults would walk out to his camp and just sit with him by
the hour. SILENCE IS GOLDEN AT TIMES!
In Alaska one of the Indian tribes enjoy just sitting around in a circle
in silence. They enjoy one another without talking.
I sense also there is one more quality in this man. He was MISSIONS
MINDED. He was on the forefront of missions. He was working with Paul and
seemingly involved in Church planting.
I fear many today fail to see past the end of their own lives when they
look at the harvest fields. Few today are directing and leading their Churches
toward missions. Many are stunting their Churches growth and prosperity
by stunting missions.
Missions is to be a vital part of all our lives. If you aren't praying for, and supporting missions then you aren't in the mainstream of God's program - you are on the outskirts and many Churches there are on the outskirts!
Epaphras was a man of many qualities! The book of Philemon (vs 23) tells
us that he was a prisoner with Paul in Rome, so we can see that he was
committed to his Lord - all the way.
As I review his qualities the two that stand out most are the qualities
of prayer and concern for his people. He was concerned about the people
in his Church as well as the people in nearby Churches. The other Churches
mentioned are Laodicea and Hierapolis. These two cities and Colosse formed
a triangle. They were only a few miles apart. (about 12) He had probably
met these people - maybe had taught them indeed, may have started the Churches.
In Colossians 1:7 the term for deacon (minister) is used of Epaphras.
He evidently was a deacon at his Church. History and tradition indicates
that he went on to become an elder there at Colosse and later was martyred
I'm told that his name means "lovely" a shortened form of Epaphroditus
meaning "handsome or charming." A fitting name for such a man of God.
SOUNDS LIKE THE KIND OF GUY THAT YOU'D LIKE TO HAVE AROUND YOUR CHURCH!
So many Church leaders today are qualified yet I wonder how many of
them are of this quality. This was a layman and he had these qualities!
One of the first elder qualifications is "if a man desire the office."
Many Church leaders are not there because they DESIRE the office.
We do not have prayer warriors in many of our pulpits today. We do not
have concerned men in many of our pastorates today.
When I told my father that I was going to become a minister he said,
"Well I guess there's good money in that." At the time I thought yes, in
the liberal denominations but not in the fundamental circles. Today I feel
that it is coming into fundamental circles. I fear that the ministry is
becoming an occupation to many young men. Not a bond slaves life of service
for his Lord with his Lord's people, but a job and career.
Peter gives a proper picture of an elder in I Pet. 5:1-4. You should
read it sometime.
Epaphras had many qualities. Indeed these qualities should be aspired
to by all believers, but they ought to be resident in all of our Church
leadership! In the years to come I trust that you will look for men of
prayer, men of concern, men of service, men of Christ, men who are desirous
of being a shepherd.
Recently I saw an interview of a shepherd here in the western U.S. They
ask him of his life and he described the small wagon that he lived in month
after month and the danger that he faced to protect the sheep. He spoke
of the long months of crying over the loneliness before he finally got
used to it. They ask him why he was a shepherd. His reply was this, "The
sheep needed to be cared for and I chose to be a shepherd."
We need men in our pulpits and our board rooms that have chosen to be
shepherds -- men who desire to care for the sheep. May your future shepherds
be so dedicated. May your future shepherds be so concerned.
Christ is pictured as a shepherd in the New Testament. May our shepherds
be like our heavenly shepherd!
We must take our application one step further before we close. If you
were to compare YOUR life to that of Epaphras how would YOU compare? Paul
chose the term "SERVANT" for Epaphras, if Paul were writing about you today
could he use the term "servant" of you?
Can you in your own mind say, "My life is a God-used life."? If you
can't say "Yes" then you need to spend time getting to know your Master
and seeing what He wants you to do.